To some, a winch fairlead is sort of a boring product. They’re a necessity if you have a winch, but there’s usually nothing sexy about them. They don’t make your rig go faster, climb over bigger rocks, or wow your friends at the show and shine. Its simply a hunk of metal that the winch rope slides through to align it onto the winch drum, right? Well, that’s true, and for the vast majority of people for whom the winch is little more than a piece of jewelry for their garage queen, very little thought is put into the winch fairlead beyond making sure it’s shiny. But for those who actually use their winches, for whom a failure during a hard pull can be catastrophic, and who take extra measures to make sure they’re running the best equipment that will help them get there and back, the winch fairlead can warrant plenty of consideration.
So that’s what we did when we sat down to design a new fairlead for STEED Off-Road. We’ve put the thought into it so you don’t have to. But if you’re curious, or you’d like to check our work, read on.
Made in the U.S.A.
Of course we start with an American Made product. Our Big RAD Fairlead is CNC machined from a solid billet of 6061-T6 aluminum at a facility whose primary mission is to manufacture high-precision components for America’s most advanced military and aerospace projects. Anyone with a second-hand Bridgeport in their garage can make a winch fairlead, but it takes professional craftsmen and advanced machinery to create one this perfect. The machinists’ attention to precision is evident in every flawless surface of the Big RAD Fairlead.
The Biggest Radius of Any Fairlead
The Big RAD Winch Fairlead from STEED Off-Road has the biggest rope-guide radius available in ANY winch fairlead on the market! The massive 7/8″ radius provides an easier transition for the winch rope when pulling from angles other than straight ahead. Typical fairleads have a small 3/8 to 1/2 radius while competing large radius fairleads still only have a 5/8″ radius. The radius of your fairlead’s cable way is important because the rope can endure several damaging forces during hard pulls around sharper corners. As the rope makes that sharp turn under extreme tension, fibers on the outside of the turn are stretched further while fibers on the inside of the bend are compressed, causing irregular stress within the rope and placing an inordinate amount of tension on the few outer-most strands. Traversing this corner also causes internal friction inside the rope as strands push and pull against each other more, under pressure. Any dirt, sand and other debris that has found its way into the rope fibers can grind on and damage the strands more as the rope travels around that tight bend. There is also increased friction, and possible damaging heat during long pulls, where the rope rides against the turn of the fairlead’s cable way. A larger radius helps to distribute the load, reducing friction and heat overall. If you use your winch frequently, you owe it to your synthetic winch rope to install the Big RAD Winch Fairlead.
Type III Hard Anodize with PTFE Finish
The Big RAD Winch Fairlead is finished with a Mil-Spec Type III Hard Coat Anodize with PTFE (Teflon) impregnation. This process results in an extremely hard, slippery, corrosion resistant surface that is uniquely suited for this use. The hard coat anodized finish is abrasion resistant and has a much smoother finish than other types of plating and coating. This abrasion resistance is important for use in winch fairleads as it will maintain its smoothness better over years of use with muddy, sandy, gritty winch ropes sliding across it. Such conditions may “sand”, groove and damage other types of surfaces, in turn damaging the rope during subsequent use. The Teflon impregnation acts as a dry lubricant, further enhancing the fairlead’s performance as this process yields a 50% lower coefficient of friction compared to other types of anodizing. And in case you were wondering, the deep bronze color of the fairlead is determined by the hard coat anodizing.
Why Are our Fasteners So Ugly?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and since we know why our fasteners aren’t as shiny as the competition’s, we love them despite their rather dull appearance. First of all, we decided that the paltry 3/8″ hardware that comes with most winch fairleads was entirely inadequate for real world, hard core recovery work. So we bumped up to 7/16″, which is only one size up but massive in comparison to 3/8″ hardware. Next we briefly considered stainless steel because it looks so sexy, no doubt why everyone else uses it. But 18-8 stainless steel hardware is only rated at 70,000 psi. That may sound like a lot, but consider that a Grade 8 bolt is 150,000 psi, over twice as strong. Now, that’s pretty damn strong, but we decided to go with Alloy Steel Socket Head Cap Screws, which weigh in at a whopping 170,000 psi in strength. Overkill? Of course! But we love overkill. As for that dull appearance, normal alloy steel hardware usually comes with a black oxide finish, which can rust easily. Clear zinc plating is better, but we didn’t like the cheap “Grade 2” look of it. So once again we erred on the side of overkill and specified zinc-aluminum coating for our bolts, which is 40 times more corrosion resistant than zinc plating and is tested to withstand 1,000 hours of salt spray. So, yeah, our bolts aren’t shiny. But when you know why, you’ll love them as much as we do!
If all of this sounds a little obsessive for a product as seemingly simple as a winch fairlead, you’re probably right. But we’ve obsessed over it so you don’t have to. We’ve paid attention to detail in every facet of the product, to create an item we are proud to run on our own off-road vehicles, and confident in recommending for yours.
- Supplied fasteners are 7/16 X 1-3/4 Socket Head Cap Screws in Alloy Steel with Zinc-Aluminum coating, along with Grade 8 Flat Washers and Grade C “Stover” all-metal lock nuts. The 1-3/4″ bolt length is sufficient for passing through up to 1/4″ steel plate bumpers or fairlead mounts. If you need longer or shorter bolts you will have to source them yourself. You may source the same style bolt in different lengths from McMaster-Carr at This Link.
- Some bumpers and fairlead mounts are only drilled for 3/8″ fairlead bolts, and will require drilling them out to 7/16″ to use the supplied hardware.
- The rope slot in the fairlead measures 7/8″ X 7-3/8″. Please make sure your winch rope thimble will fit through the 7/8″ slot. Typical thimbles for common 3/8″ rope fit fine. If you are running a larger rope size, measure the thickness of your thimble before purchasing the Big RAD Winch Fairlead.
- This fairlead is intended for use with synthetic winch rope only. DO NOT use it with steel cable.
- If you are an anti-brander, simply flip the fairlead over and the STEED logo will only be visible to the person changing your oil.
- You can have it in any color you want as long as its dark bronze-gray. That’s the natural color of un-dyed Type III Hard Coat Anodizing. If you need a prettier fairlead you probably don’t need this one anyhow.